Human Rights Guidance Tool for the Financial Sector
Key Issues and Questions

Summary: Key Questions

In this section, key questions that financial institutions could use when assessing clients and customers are identified. Exploring them will help to benchmark corporate practice. Not all the issues covered in the previous four sections are addressed, but the questions do focus on some of the key indicators of human rights concerns. Addressing these issues with potential clients and internally will help financial institutions ensure that they are observing the UN's Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework.

Core Operations

Workplace conditions

  • Is there evidence that working hours, wage levels, health and safety standards, and disciplinary practices are reasonable and applied effectively?


  • Does the company have written policies and procedures to ensure that recruitment, remuneration, career progression, training, and dismissal practices are based on merit and are objective and transparent?
  • Does the company have written policies and procedures to prevent or deal with workplace discrimination, harassment or bullying?

Child labour

  • Does the company have a written policy and a documented procedure to ensure that children will not be hired?
  • If there is evidence of child labour being used, are there documented policies or programmes that assist these children to attend and remain in education until no longer a child?
  • Are children and young workers (under 18s) protected from hazardous, unsafe or unhealthy situations, and from having to work at night?

Forced or compulsory labour

  • Are workers able to leave their employment after giving reasonable notice?
  • Are workers' identification documents or passports returned to them once seen by the company?
  • Does the company verify that recruitment agencies or other providers of workforces do not rely on forced or compulsory labour?

Freedom of association and collective bargaining

  • Are workers associations free to meet without undue interference from the company?
  • Are workers free to join a trade union or other representative group and able to bargain collectively?
  • Does the company have policies and procedures in place to prevent harassment of union representatives and union members in the workplace?

Supply Chain

Assessing suppliers

  • Does the company have a documented supplier screening policy, outlining relevant standards and expectations in areas such as labour relations and health and safety?
  • Does the company regularly monitor suppliers and conduct social and environmental audits of suppliers, including visits to supplier locations, either directly or through an independent third party?


Access to resources

  • Do all affected communities (including pre-literate communities) have the opportunity to be consulted on and participate in a proposed project?
  • Are local communities able to access a grievance mechanism to express views upon a company presence or project?
  • Does the company have mechanisms in place to prevent adverse effects on local communities through exploitation of natural resources?
  • Does the company monitor the level of disruption caused to the local community as a result of its operations?


  • Does the company ensure that security guards are trained in adequate defensive and preventive responses and in respect of due process requirements?
  • Are security staff trained to involve local authorities as soon as possible if the need to arrest or imprison an individual arises?
  • Does the company avoid making payments to groups attempting to extort payment for ensuring the security of the company's personnel and facilities?
  • Are local communities free to express themselves without fear of intimidation or violence?

Access to land

  • Has the company taken steps to ensure that the development of its operations does not result in forced relocation of populations?
  • Prior to site development, does the company ensure that communities subject to relocation are adequately consulted, and the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples obtained?
  • When communities are relocated, does the company monitor that the individuals receive prompt and adequate compensation and appropriate alternative land? (This may be a government/state responsibility)
  • Are local communities able to access a complaints mechanism to express views upon a company presence or project?

Society and Governments

Relations with Governments

  • If the company operates in conflict zones, failing states, or states with poor human rights records, does the company have a mechanism for identifying and managing the risk of perceived or actual complicity in human rights abuses with the government or opposition groups?
  • Does the company take steps to ensure transparency in its relationship with governments? (eg: making public the amount paid in taxes)?
  • Has the company been subject to past allegations of complicity?
  • Has the company adopted a written policy and procedures against bribery and corruption and trained all employees and agents on this issue?


December 2014     United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative